The saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’ has never been more appropriate. Not only does laughter bring people together, it can also trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body.

Who hasn’t felt their spirits lift when they’ve found something amusing? Whether it’s as simple as belly laughing at a silly joke, or smiling and feeling warm as you remember a fond memory, laughter does more than just provide a break from difficult times. It can also provide courage, strength, and hope.

Humour is often ignored as a way of improving mental and physical health, but there are many ways that it can do so. Below, we’ll explore some of the ways laughter and humour can improve mental and physical health, and look at how you can introduce more of it into your life.

The benefits of humour and laughing...

The benefits of humour and laughing...

We all know that laughter feels good, but its benefits go far beyond this. Research tells us that laughter can…

  • Relax the entire body. A hearty laugh can help to relieve physical tension and stress for around 45 minutes at a time.

  • Help you live longer. A Norwegian study found that those with a strong sense of humour lived longer than those who didn’t.

  • Boost your immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones (such as cortisol) and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies – all of which improve the body’s resistance to disease.

  • Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s feel-good chemicals). Endorphins can increase positive feelings and, for a short time, relieve pain.

  • Improve blood vessel functioning, and increase blood flow. This can help to protect against heart disease and stroke.

  • Burn calories. While laughing isn’t going to replace regular exercise, a study found that laughing for 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories. This means that over a year, laughing can help a person lose three to four pounds.

  • Ward off negative emotions. When you laugh in response to something that’s really tickled you, it’s more difficult to feel angry, anxious, or sad.

  • Reduce stress, boost energy, and help you stay focused. These can all help you to accomplish more.

  • Provide a positive outlook during difficult times. Even in our lowest moments, laughter can help to make things seem a little less dark.

  • Shift perspective. Laughter can help you to see situations in a different light – one that’s probably more realistic than the worst-case scenarios we often conjure up in our minds.

  • Help you be less defensive. The sense of well-being we feel when we laugh can help us to forget criticisms, doubts, judgments, and resentments.

  • Release inhibitions. Laughter can help us feel more carefree, which can give us the courage to try new things and step outside of our comfort zones.

  • Help you to express your true feelings. Laughter can be a gateway to release other emotions that we might have been suppressing. It’s not uncommon for someone to laugh hysterically, only for their laughter to turn into sad tears as their other emotions start to come through.

  • Improve memory. Humour and laughter can assist with memory retention. Research has found that information has a greater chance of being remembered and shared if the material makes the person who is studying it laugh.

  • Diffuse anger and conflict. Seeing the funny side of a situation can put problems into perspective, and allow you to move forward from confrontation without bitterness or resentment.

  • Strengthen relationships. Laughing together can help to build strong and lasting relationships, while also keeping them fresh and exciting. It can also help to unite people during difficult times.

  • Improve sleep by helping you feel content and balanced. Laughter decreases stress hormones, relaxes your muscles, and stimulates the release of feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin. If you can have a good laugh before you settle down for the night, you may stand a better chance at having an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

  • Break the ice. Humour can be used to help people relax in social situations. Sharing a joke can also act as a conversation starter, and might make someone’s day.

9 tips to help you laugh more

9 tips to help you laugh more

Understanding the positives that humour and laughing can bring is one thing, but you might also be wondering how you can bring more of it into your life.

We hope the following 9 tips will bring some light and laughter to your day.

1. Avoid becoming fixated on the negative

It’s all too easy to focus on the negative elements of life, like news stories, encounters with negative people, or conversations that have made you feel unhappy. But, it’s possible to see the lighter side of life by accepting that there’s much beyond our control.

This acceptance can not only help you to let go of negativity and worry, but it can provide more headspace to focus on what you can control, and on the positives in your life.

A good place to start when trying to break free from negativity and find a more positive path is to make a list of all the things that you’re most grateful for. Try to look at the list daily or weekly, and add to it as often as you can.

Our articles, How to learn the skill of optimism and How practising gratitude can lead to a happier life, have plenty more tips on how to adopt a more positive mindset. You may also like to have a read of our mindfulness guide, or join a mindfulness meditation over on Rest Less Events.

2. Start with a smile

Start with a smile

If laughter isn’t something that comes naturally, or you don’t feel as though you have much to laugh about right now, why not start with a smile? Smiling can improve your mood and, like laughter, is contagious.

Rather than looking down when you’re out in public, try to smile at people around you. This can not only help you to feel more positive, but can make others around you feel good too.

3. Listen to Laughies

According to research from the University of Derby, recording a ‘Laughie’ can be a great way to help introduce humour and laughter into your life.

A Laughie is a recording of your own laughter, which you then play back to yourself, prompting you to laugh. It’s suggested that you use the Laughie technique whenever you have a spare moment, whether you’re on your own or with others. There’s also no right or wrong place or way to listen to or record a Laughie.

Although, it’s said that the best results are achieved when the laugh recording sounds natural and is listened to for at least a minute a day.

4. Learn to laugh at yourself

Learn to laugh at yourself

Rather than beating yourself up about any mistakes or personal shortcomings, try to laugh at them instead. Learning to laugh at yourself isn’t always easy, but it does have a positive impact. It can help you overcome feelings of embarrassment and embrace your imperfections.

It can also encourage you to take yourself less seriously, which can make life much more fun. We’re more likely to try new things and grab life with two hands if we’re prepared to laugh off the outcome – whether good or bad.

5. Watch comedy movies or TV shows

You can create opportunities to laugh by watching funny TV shows or movies. For some inspiration, you might want to check out our articles; 20 of the best comedy films of all time and 20 classic comedy series everyone should watch.

There are also amusing articles and videos on the internet that are quite easy to find – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have plenty. Books can be full of humour too; Amazon has lots of options.

Humour can be very personal, so it can take some trial and error to discover what sort of things really get you laughing. Remember that it’s not weird if someone else finds something funny and you don’t – you just have a different sense of humour, and that’s okay.

6. Look for humour - even in negative situations

Look for humour – even in negative situations

Instead of grumbling about bad situations, try to look for humour in them. When something negative happens, if possible, turn it into a humorous anecdote that’ll make other people laugh. It can provide some light relief for everyone involved.

7. Make time to laugh daily

Try to make time to laugh every day by incorporating it into your routine.

Laughter doesn’t always have to be connected to a spontaneous You’ve Been Framed moment – you can also schedule time in your day (as little as 10 minutes will do) for something that you find amusing. This could be looking at funny videos or listening to an amusing podcast. The more frequently you’re able to laugh, the less effort it will take.

8. Embrace your inner child

Embrace your inner child

If you want to connect with your playful side, why not reflect on your childhood and see if there are things you enjoyed then that you can still do as an adult? Colouring or flying a kite, for example, remain fun activities for all ages.

Plus, if you have grandchildren or other children in your life, why not try to spend more time with them? Children are experts at playing, not taking life too seriously, and laughing at the simplest of things – all of which can be infectious.

9. Try laughter yoga

Consider taking up laughter yoga. Laughter yoga is a mix of breathing techniques taken from yoga and laughing exercises.

It’s based on the idea that if you’re prepared to laugh (even if you don’t find anything funny), you’ll experience the psychological and physiological advantages that come with it.

The best way to practise laughter yoga is in a group, as eye contact can make laughter come much more naturally.

If you’d like to give laughter yoga a go, why not sign up to a session on Rest Less Events?

Alternatively, you can find a laughter yoga club near you on this search tool.

Final thoughts…

By exploring the health benefits of humour and laughing – such as a boosted immune system, improved memory, and better quality sleep – it’s understandable why the phrase, ‘laughter is the best medicine’, has become so popular. And, often, even the anticipation of laughter can have a positive impact on your mood.

So, whether it’s comedy shows, family and friends, funny videos, memes, or songs that make you laugh – try to engage with them as often as you can, especially during difficult times. Laughter and smiles aren’t just fleeting moments of happiness, they can be effective tools for coping with anxiety, fear, and grief. Plus, humour can break the ice, release tension, and bring people together.

If you feel short on reasons to crack a smile right now, why not have a read of our article; 20 happy facts to make your day a little better on the healthy mind section of our website? You may also like to join the Feel Good Club on Rest Less Events. This group offers a creative space to share and hear feel-good stories.

Do you agree that laughter is the best medicine? What made you laugh today? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!